Aubergine

After strong finish by An, S. Korea has new golf star in the making

November 23, 2015
An Byeong-hun of South Korea plays a bunker shot on the 15th hole during the third round of DP World Tour Championship golf tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

An Byeong-hun of South Korea plays a bunker shot on the 15th hole during the third round of DP World Tour Championship golf tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

By Brian Han

The South Korean ladies may be taking over the LPGA Tour, but when it comes to the men’s side, the country’s athletes tend to fall by the wayside.

After three top-5 finishes in what is essentially the European Tour’s playoffs featuring many of the best players in the world, An Byeong-hun illustrated in his 2015 rookie season that he could be South Korea’s next star athlete in the making.

Just to put his accomplishments into perspective, the South Korean began 2015 ranked 166th in the world. By the time he dropped his last putt in the season’s final event, he moved up to 31st past 2014 Fedex Cup Champion Billy Horschel and close behind Phil Mickelson and Martin Kaymer.

He even blew past his own expectations.

“Definitely exceeded,” he told reporters after the round on Sunday. “It just seems I’m Top-10 in The Race to Dubai right now and never thought about it — even Top-60. It definitely was a great season for me.”

During the weekend at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the 24-year-old tied for fourth and finished far ahead of the sport’s household names like Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Patrick Reed.

An claimed his first and only European Tour victory of 2015 at the BMW PGA Championship by a margin of six strokes.

The last time South Korea saw consistent play from one of their own may date back to K.J. Choi’s run throughout the first decade of the 21st century during which he racked up eight PGA Tour victories.

It’s not entirely fair to compare An to one of the best men’s golfers his home country has ever produced, but if he’s accomplished this much already in his short career, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that fans will be seeing his name a lot more often on leaderboards among the world’s elite.

For now, he can put down his clubs and take in what many would consider a successful season.

“Yes, I’ll have a week off and it will be like heaven,” he said. “I think I’ve done pretty well this season and now I can rest without the pressure.”

 

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